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Multimillion Public Assets Under Attack As Vandals Plunder Bridge Railings, Steal Power Cables, Other



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Multimillion public assets under attack as vandals plunder bridge railings, steal power cables, other

writes on how several public infrastructure have been under attack by miscreants who destroy and steal them without cause

On June 7, 2024, the Lagos Rapid Response Squad officers apprehended an 18-year-old boy for stealing LED road stud lights from the newly renovated Third Mainland Bridge.

The suspect who was said to live in Makoko, a slum settlement in Lagos, was identified as Mubarak Abdullahi.

LED lights are energy-efficient, long-lasting lighting solutions using light-emitting diodes to produce bright, clear illumination.

LED road lighting, according to experts, significantly improves visibility, safety, and energy efficiency.

Installed on bridges like the Third Mainland and Niger bridges, LEDs reduce accidents and operational costs.

LEDs offer lower energy consumption, longer lifespan, and reduced maintenance compared to traditional lighting.

At the time Abdullahi was arrested, it was gathered that he had already removed 10 of the LED road stud light screwed to the road to enhance the visibility of road users.

According to Safety Nigeria, an online emergency and safety website, an LED road stud light in Nigeria costs between N7,000 and N15,000 per unit.

These prices reflect products available in the market, which include features such as solar charging, waterproof capabilities, and high durability for road safety applications.

By implication, if Abdullahi had succeeded in stealing 10 of those studs, the government would have spent N150,000 to replace them. This excludes the cost of fixing the studs back to the road.

A month before Abdullahi’s arrest, RRS, a unit of the Lagos State Police Command, commenced a 24-hour bike patrol on the Third Mainland Bridge.

The Commander of RRS, Olayinka Egbeyemi, who gave the directive had said then that it was a measure to protect the bridge and prevent the incidence of harassment of road users by miscreants.

“CSP Olayinka Egbeyemi appealed to motorists and road users to co-operate with the riders so that they can serve them better,” RRS had said in a statement.

The decision to begin this patrol came after a 46-year-old man, Friday Nwafor, was arrested by officials of the Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps for vandalising the road light indicators on the newly renovated Third Mainland Bridge.

Mr Jubril Gawat, a senior special assistant to Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, confirmed this on his official X handle, stating that Nwafor was arrested and immediately handed over to the police.

Gawat stated, “Tuesday, May 8th, 2024, officers of the Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps apprehended a road infrastructure vandal who was vandalising the newly constructed Third Mainland Bridge road light indicators.

“The suspect was identified as Mr Friday Nwafor, a 46-year-old male resident of Lagos, who was immediately taken into our custody and handed over to the Commissioner of Police, Lagos Command, Mr Adegoke Fayoade.”

These came just weeks after the reopening of the bridge after massive reconstruction and refurbishing by the Federal Government which started in 2023.

The Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos, stretching over 11.8 kilometres, is an iconic infrastructure project.

It plays a critical role in the daily commute of millions of Nigerians, linking the mainland to Lagos Island.

Despite its importance, the bridge has been a target for vandals.

The removal of bridge railings had been recorded in the past before the repairs were made.

The financial burden of maintaining and repairing this bridge is substantial.

For instance, the Federal Government allocated N4.8 billion ($12 million) for its maintenance in 2021 alone.

Reports have pegged the cost of the routine repair of the Third Mainland Bridge infrastructure in six years at N15.6 bn.

The just-concluded maintenance and repair cost the Federal Government the total sum of N6.28 bn for surface maintenance. The 24-month repair covered 11.8 kilometres, including interchanges, ramps, and critical links.

It will be recalled that in 2018, the government approved N18.87 billion for renovation, which was contracted to Borini Prono an Italian construction firm that constructed the bridge.

These millions, mostly from taxpayers’ pockets, would go to waste if nothing is done to protect Nigeria’s critical infrastructure from vandals.

Despite these arrests by authorities, on July 19, 2024, a vandal attacked and stole iron reinforcement in the concrete barrier which demarcated the Ogudu Garden Valley scheme from System One Channel (Odo Iya Alaro) in Lagos.

The suspect, who was apprehended by officials of the Lagos State government confessed that he had engaged in the act once before he was caught.

He also said he had some accomplices who were now on the run.

He stated that he usually sold the vandalised iron at a giveaway amount to mobile scrap buyers.

He has been handed over to officers of Ojota Police Station for further interrogation and prosecution.

Speaking on the development, the state Commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, Tokunbo Wahab, urged residents to always take ownership of public infrastructure.

He added that the concrete barrier which demarcates the Ogudu Garden Valley scheme from System One Channel (Odo Iya Alaro) was constructed in 2011 and is a vital infrastructure for the state drainage system.

He said it is only when residents take direct ownership that such criminally minded people in the society would be kept at bay and not allowed to destroy multi-million naira infrastructure that serves the majority.

He emphasised that the full force of the law would always be applied to those caught vandalizing public infrastructure.

Vandals on Second Niger Bridge

In May, the Federal Government raised the alarm over vandalism on the superstructure of the Second Niger Bridge.

Minister of Works, Senator David Umahi, reported the destruction of the expansion joints, which are crucial for absorbing thermal expansions of the bridge.

Despite the deployment of a private security outfit by the Federal Ministry of Works, such acts of vandalism continue unabated.

This was disclosed in a statement by the minister’s Special Adviser (Media), Orji Uchenna-Orji, in Abuja.

The Niger Bridge, connecting Onitsha in Anambra State to Asaba in Delta State, is another vital infrastructure asset.

Constructed in the 1960s, it has been essential for trade and transportation between Nigeria’s eastern and western regions.

However, vandalism, particularly the theft of metal components, has compromised its structural integrity.

In 2017, the Nigerian government allocated over N5 billion ($13 million) for its rehabilitation.

Speaking on the vandalism, Uchenna-Orji stated, “The Minister condemns in the strongest terms this ruthless destruction of the expansion joints as a deliberate act of sabotage on a key national infrastructure that has immense socio-economic benefits to the contiguous States and indeed the entire Nation.”

Quoting the minister, he said, “It is saddening that a human being with the right senses could destroy such a critical and strategic treasure that catalyses Nigeria’s socio-economic advancement.”

“The Minister notes that the Second Niger Bridge, handed over to the Renewed Hope administration on December 12, 2023, is one of the PIDF projects intended to bridge the gap in road infrastructure for the people of the area, boosting economic activities by expanding access into the southern part of Nigeria, creating opportunities for tourism and trade, and improving road safety along the corridor.

Orji added that it was disheartening that the facilities were being vandalized by those who were meant to benefit from them.

He also praised the public for their vigilance, especially the young Nigerians who raised the alarm that trended widely on media platforms.

Orji assured the public that a more robust security architecture was being activated to prevent further damage, while a technical team has been directed to inspect, evaluate, and repair the damaged parts of the superstructure.

He urged all road users, residents, and authorities within the 1.6km concrete box girder bridge of the Second Niger Bridge, the two secondary bridges of 21.7m each on Amakon village road, the cloverleaf interchange at Onitsha-Owerri road, and the approach roads between Asaba, Delta State, and Onitsha, Anambra State, to help monitor against vandalism and report any suspicious activities to the nearest police station.

The ministry also promised to reward anyone who arrests or provides useful information on the identity of those vandalizing the Second Niger Bridge or any road infrastructure nationwide.

The Federal Government appealed to states and communities where such projects are located to take ownership and help safeguard them.

Power infrastructure vandals

Between January 2022 and September 2023, a total of 108 power transmission towers were destroyed by vandals in various parts of the country, according to data obtained from the Transmission Company of Nigeria.

It was gathered that the vandals destroyed 132kV double circuit power transmission lines, and 330kV double circuit lines, and carried out soil excavation that threatened transmission towers, as the Federal Government described the development as sabotage.

The vandalism of transmission towers occurred in the Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Enugu, and Benin regions, though the government, through TCN, had contracted out the repairs of some of the vandalised towers.

It had also deployed in-house engineers of the transmission company to work on other vandalised towers.

An analysis of data from the transmission company showed that 27 towers were vandalised in the Abuja region during the review period, while nine towers were destroyed in the Lagos region.

The Kano region recorded the highest number of destroyed transmission towers, as 52 towers were vandalised in the region during the review period, while 10 towers were shattered in each of the regions of Enugu Benin.

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